Dear theatre audience,
This is it. I am standing backstage. Between me and you is a door, slightly ajar. When I hear my name announced I will walk through this door, across the stage and into the spotlight. I will strut and I will pose (as best as I can). I will meet your gaze and make you complicit in this product of fiction.
I have just extinguished my final cigarette. I think I could have timed it a little better as there are still a couple of moments before I am introduced and I am without a ritual to regulate myself. It only takes a moment for my fears to be incensed as to how silly this is and how it could all go so horribly wrong. To comfort this fear I pace back and forth in a straight line and sing a song under my breath, The Advert’s One Chord Wonders. Like the expression of a territorial assemblage observed by Deluze and Guitarri, I take shelter in these actions and orient myself with them.
I wonder what we'll play for you tonight.
Something heavy or something light.
Something to set your soul alight.
I wonder how we'll answer when you say.
"We don't like you - go away"
"Come back when you've learned to play"
I wonder what we'll do when things go wrong.
When we look up and the audience has gone.
Will we feel a little bit obscure.
Think "we're not needed here"
The song helps. But I have just have just heard my name and your applause. The circle which the song drew around me has now opened and exposed its fragile centre. Me. I am to go out there. Where you are now. If this does go wrong and it comes down to a fight, my colleagues and I don’t stand a chance. You out number us about thirty-to-one. Frank could probably hold his own for a bit. Natalie too. Sime and Dara though can hide under the cloaks of their dramaturgical and design roles and avoid implication. Their work is done. As was ours, until this moment. Now a new job begins: the opening up of that same circle that these theatre rituals assemble and bring you into the work. For you are important to us. It is for you. All of it.
This will not be virtuous or pedagogical. This is about opening up spaces. It will expose the fragile centre of this moment. Where territories, identities and narratives collide. It could fail miserably. It could be awkward. But wont it be exciting finding out?
This is not about something. It is something. It is a form and a structure first. It is an event. Do not look for its meaning. Look for its use.
Let us let go of virtuosity, stability and our compulsive modernity and just be together. For who we really are. Players of a game where we can all take control. We will let you know the rules. But feel free to break them. There will be no winners or losers in this game. Just players.
Here I go. This is it.
See you out there. Not from the stage, but on the stage.
Much love, peace and understanding,
Malcolm Whittaker is a young man from Sydney who works across live art, writing, installation and video. He does this in solo pursuits, as a member of performance group Team MESS and in other collaborations with artists and non-artists. He can’t be sure why he does this. But it feels right. Most of the time.
Team MESS are Dara Gill, Sime Knezevic, Frank Mainoo, Natalie Randall and Malcolm Whittaker.